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Jason Clarke, Arien Mack, Clarissa Slesar, Muge Erol; No Gist Perception Without Attention. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):156. doi: 10.1167/11.11.156.
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In 1998 Mack and Rock described results that have been mistakenly interpreted to mean that the gist of a scene can be perceived in the absence of attention (Koch & Tsuchiya, 2006), and in 2002 Li et al. presented data supporting their claim that gist can be perceived in the near absence of attention. We present results consistent with those reported by Cohen, Alvarez, and Nakayama (2009) that there is no gist perception without attention. In a series of experiments using our inattention procedure (Mack & Rock, 1998), subjects were asked to report the longer arm of a cross briefly presented either at fixation or in the periphery. On critical trials in the inattention, divided, and full attention conditions, the image of a scene (4.7 by 3.6 degrees) was located in the periphery centered 5.9 degrees from fixation when the cross was central or central when the cross was peripheral. It replaced a mosaic pattern present on all previous trials. After reporting the longer cross arm, subjects on these trials were queried about what else they had seen. Six different scenes were used, one of them resembling a picture used by Mack and Rock and several similar to those used by Li et al. (2002). The results were clear. Of the 120 subjects tested, only 22 reported gist in the inattention condition while 90 reported gist with full attention (p < .000). Our results strongly indicate that gist perception requires attention. Moreover, it is significantly more difficult to perceive gist when the scene is in the periphery (p < .05). Furthermore, in the divided attention condition there was a trade off between accuracy of cross reports and gist perception, again attesting to the need for attention to perceive gist.
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